OTTUMWA — With October, which is designated as disability awareness month, wrapping up, specialists in Wapello County thought it would be important to tell the community about the people they serve and how they find employment.
Rodney Bostic is the training employment specialist for Tenco, a supported employment agency for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. He’s also a job coach who helps his assigned individuals find work, train in the job and then maintain that job.
He works with Chuck Bonnett, 48, of Ottumwa. Bonnett is going on six months in his position of kitchen assistant for Hy-Vee North.
He and his job coach were in the dining area of the supermarket Wednesday. Bostic stops in weekly to confer with his client and with managers to see if there are any issues that need work. A job coach will work with a client as much as necessary.
The Tenco Industries that is best known, perhaps, may be the can redemption center, a “sheltered workshop,” where individuals do simple tasks based on their abilities. They can generally work at their own pace. Their salary is subsidized. But Tenco officials have said that’s not the ideal situation for the clients.
“Tenco is hoping to teach our consumers the skills they need to get out into the community,” said Bostic, “and to be more independent.”
So what is Bonnett’s disability?
“I’m not disabled,” he began (which seemed to catch Bostic by surprise) before he amended, “I don’t feel disabled.”
Now that was a sentiment his job coach understood. Bonnett’s a good client, pleasant, hardworking and positive. Employment is more than a paycheck for many special-needs workers, Bostic said.
“It’s self-esteem,” he said.
Bonnet is much more independent than some of his peers. He has his own apartment, where he gets regular visits from Crest Services, an agency that helps people with disabilities become part of their community.